News for North Texas
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
Education

Tarrant County College director of communications files suit over termination

Tarrant County College.JPG
Cristian ArguetaSoto
/
Fort Worth Report
Tarrant County College is seen on Feb. 8, 2021.

The fallout from the ouster of Tarrant County College chancellor expanded April 18 with the filing of a lawsuit by the former executive director of communications.

The college terminated its executive director of communications, Suzanne Groves, on April 15, according to the lawsuit filed in federal court. Her attorney is Frank Hill, who is representing other former employees in due process lawsuits.

Reginald Gates, TCC vice chancellor for communications and external affairs, said he could not comment on personnel matters to confirm the termination of Groves. After the lawsuit was filed, the Report attempted to contact Gates again, but he was unavailable. Board President Teresa Ayala deferred comments to Gates.

According to the lawsuit, Groves’ termination violates her right to free speech and due process. She is suing for damages including her salary and benefits lost and for a reasonable sum for physical pain and mental anguish.

“Groves is deeply emotionally injured, and you hear lawyers say that in every case,” Hill said. “Well, I’ve been doing it for 55 years, and I can tell you she can hardly contain herself. She’s shaking, crying, hurt emotionally.”

Path to her termination

The college’s actions against Groves spring from how she handled documents she received, according to the lawsuit. In October 2021, Groves received information that indicated a TCC Foundation employee involved with then-Chancellor Eugene Giovannini had a criminal record. The lawsuit claims Groves received the documents from Louise Appleman, a past president of the board of trustees at TCC.

However, Appleman told the Report she does not know what documents the lawsuit is referring to.

Groves turned the documents over to the employee’s supervisor, Kristen Bennett, the former executive vice president of advancement at the TCC Foundation. Bennett is one of the employees involved in another due process lawsuit against the college. She claims she was terminated because of her employee’s relationship with Giovannini.

The lawsuit said no policy or directive prohibited Groves from giving this type of documentation to her supervisor. The lawsuit also states at the time Groves received the documents, the majority of the board knew of the inappropriate relationship between the chancellor and the woman in question.

The board had an independent investigation conducted by attorney Kip Mendryga, according to the lawsuit. During that investigation, the attorney “inadvertently discovered” Groves’ handling of these documents which led to her termination.

Since Bennett’s lawsuit was filed Feb. 7, Hill said, he’s received about 50 calls from current and past TCC employees sharing similar grievances.

People “need to vote every one of these people off this board at the first opportunity they have,” he said. “It is totally dysfunctional.”